Friday, April 21, 2006

United 93 Box Office?

The early word on United 93 is almost universally positive. So how much money is it going to make? It's not unreasonable to speculate that United 93's box office performance will be analyzed as a cultural indicator of one sort or another.

Let's start, as always, with the marketplace. HSX has United 93 pegged at $48, which translates to a $16.5M opening weekend.

Our next stop is the performance of the April 28 weekend over the last few years:

* In 2005 The Interpreter opened to $22.8M.

* In 2004 Man on Fire opened to $22.7M and 13 Going on 30 opened to $21M.

* In 2003, Identity opened to $16.2M.

* In 2002, Jason X opened to $6.6M and Life, or Something Like It, opened to $6.2M.

* In 2001, Driven opened to $12.1M.

* In 2000, The Flintstones Viva Rock Vegas, Frequency, and Where the Heart Is opened to $10.5M, $9M, and $8.2M, respectively.

What we see here (excepting 2000, when this weekend followed the strong release of The Scorpian King) is a trend of increasingly large openings for the fourth weekend in April.

Because of this, it looks as though the floor for United 93 is probably $22M. None of the other April openers are in the same genre as United 93--really, nothing is, except maybe Passion of the Christ. Passion opened to $83M. Could United 93 wind up in that neighborhood? I think it's possible. But I'd be surprised.

Only two movies have ever opened above $40M in April. It's more likely that United 93 will fall somewhere between that $22M floor and $42M. If it's within that range then I'm not sure the audience reaction will really symbolize anything--that's basically business as usual for the month of April.

But if it's significantly outside that range, then it could really say something about American attitudes.


Dean Barnett said...

A prediction - "United 93" will be the biggest box office shock since "The Passion," maybe even a bigger box office shock than "The Passion."

I wouldn't be surprised if it's the biggest hit of the year.

Anonymous said...

I'm leaving this anonymous because I don't want to annoy the studio, but Last knows who I am.

I saw it yesterday in a room full of film critics, and it was, without exaggeration, one of the most soul-quaking experiences I've ever had in a theater. Everyone in the room was crying to the point of their speech being impeded as they left the theater. We all had to stand for a while in the theater lobby and talk before entering the real world, like divers in a decompression bell.

Greengrass' genius is that he takes a fat-free, documentarian approach to the incident -- working from a script pulled in large part from documents and transcripts, with actual participants in the original event playing themselves as air-traffic controllers and the like. This movie is completely free of melodramatic or political horseshit. There are no falsely ennobling bonding moments among the passengers; you never learn anyone's name; no one's ideology is explored in any detail. Stuff other filmmakers would hammer home is smartly thrown away. The movie simply shows what happened and intelligently reconstructs the rest -- starting on the hijacker's mission, then handing itself over to the passengers' mission, all while intercutting with the guys on the ground who are doing the best they can while shocked, confused, and unable to scramble fighter jets worth a damn because they can't get higher-ups on the phone.

One writer pointed out to me that this is a movie about failure -- failure of the hijackers, failure of the agencies on the ground to talk to one another. The passenger's victory -- which is so well-staged and set-up, you find yourself hoping they'll pull it off, despite knowing the ending -- is that they cause someone else's failure, even if they can't fully re-take the plane. This is the part of the film that's going to be tricky to discuss, I suppose, but to me their victory-in-failure was more inspiring than something two-dimensionally melodramatic, because these people organize and fight like desperate men despite knowing they're almost certainly doomed. It's primal and stirring in ways I'm still processing.

"Let's roll" is a throwaway line that's part of a larger bit of dialogue.

I could be wrong, but I think this is going to be a seimic cultural event if people can get over the mental hump of paying to watch this in a theater. Word-of-mouth is going to be insane. I know how hyperbolic this sounds, but this was the first time in a long while that a Big Important Movie gave me the hypnotic communal experience of a good church service.

Anonymous said...

That last post was extremely sobering. I will say this however, the mainstream media is going to do its damndest to try to make this movie crash and burn. No reminders of what we are fighting or that Americans are good and our enemies bad, will be allowed a free ride by today's cultural enablers. Because of the not so unintended pun and link to adversaries of this country I too will remain anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I'm no student of box office, but I'll just say this: I definitely will see the movie. If it's anything as good as it's been described, I'll want to see it twice. But, I won't want to see it twice right away. I'll let a week or two go between viewings. For that reason, if anyone else in the U.S. is like me, the second and third week box office fall-offs for this film won't be as steep as they have been for recent H'wood films.

Rick Moran said...

Anyone know how many theaters this is opening in?

It would seem to me that is the determining factor today as to what the initial gross will be (at least according to Frontline's excellent doc on the biz last year).

I'm with commenter #2: The buzz on this movie is unbelievable, almost as much as for Star Wars ROTS. Much more than for LOTR's final installment. How that translates into BO will be anyone's guess. My own thought is that there are still many, many walking wounded from 9/11 who will absolutely refuse to see this movie. Whether that will hurt it significantly is unknown.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:48 makes very interesting comments. One thing that I will mention is that 'knowing how it ends' may make it hard to watch.

I read 'Black Hawk Down' and the deaths of Gordon and Shughart (the Delta snipers who protected one of the downed choppers) are a gripping moment. It was extraordinarily difficult to watch them die in the movie. It's likely the same sort of feeling for this one.